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The Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

As you can probably tell there's a lot going on in this particular text here. So we want to break it down, ask some key questions and highlight some key themes. So let's just walk through one by one what those are. Number one, the first key theme here is the relationship between sin and suffering, between sin and the blindness of this particular man. You'll notice that when the disciples see this man who was blind from birth, they assume that his blindness is either a result of his own personal sin or of the sin of his parents. So they say "who sinned, this man or his parents?” And Jesus says "neither, neither this man nor his parents, but his blindness in this case is so that the work of God might be manifest in him." So God has a higher purpose in allowing this man to be blind, but it is not the result of his own personal sin. Keep that in mind because we are going to come back to that. It is going to be a very, very important point.

The second aspect of the story that is worth highlighting is the way that Jesus performs the miracle. Notice that there are three key elements to the miracle here. Number one, Jesus performs the miracle in the context of declaring "I am the light of the world." In other words, in the face of this man's blindness, he makes a statement about his own identity as the light of the world. Number two, Jesus doesn't just speak a word like he does in other miracles — like the centurion's servant, "only say the word and my servant shall be healed. In this case, Jesus goes further and he spits on the ground and makes clay out of the dust and the spit, and then uses the the clay to anoint the man's eyes and heal him. Now this is really a rather shocking action on Jesus' part. I mean think about just that act of him spitting on the ground. How much spit would he have to to use in order to make clay out of the dust? So clearly this is a deliberate act on Jesus' part. He's using his own spit and the dust for some reason. What's the deeper reason? Didn't Mary teach Jesus any manners here? Not to spit? You know it might seem repugnant at first, but there is something significant going on. And then third, Jesus doesn't just spit and make clay, he also commands the man to wash with water. To wash in the water of the pool of Siloam that we see elsewhere in the Gospel of John. Okay, so why? What is the reason for these three steps of the miracle?

Well you wont't be surprised to realize that it really lies in the Old Testament, it lies in the Jewish roots of Jesus's action here. Because in first century Judaism — this is really interesting — there was a tradition going all the way back — the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to this — that when God made Adam from the dust of the ground he used spittle. That he used spit. Because if you try to make something from dust, you can't do it. You can't mold a statue of dust. You have to have some liquid in order to hold the dirt together. So the Jews had this tradition that when God made Adam, he made him from spit and clay. He made him from his own spit, and the Dead Sea Scrolls actually have a line that said that Adam, or man, was made from "spat saliva, molded clay." So think about that for a second. If in Jewish tradition God makes Adam from spit and dust from the clay, what is Jesus doing here?

Jesus is acting like God acted in the Old Testament. In other words, he is performing an act of a new creation. Just as Adam was given his body from the clay, so Jesus now gives the man bom blind sight. He gives him, in a sense, new eyes from the clay and his own spittle. So this is like a divine action for Jesus to spit on the ground and make clay and give this man sight. That's the basic theme of what is going on here. So this it yet another aspect of John's Gospel where Jesus is revealing his divinity. He is not just the Messiah. He is not just the king of Israel. He is the divine son of God. He's I am. He's the God who made the universe and who is now going to remake the universe and redeem it and make it new.

Now, you might think that everybody would see that, they would all love and it would be great. Unfortunately no, the response to Jesus's miracle is interesting here. Some people are confused. First of all they wader "is this the same man?" They doubt that he could actually be the same guy. Maybe he just looks like somebody else. Maybe you have had that happen to you where somebody sees someone who they think looks like you — a doppelganger it is called in German. So some people think " is this the same guy?" Other people just accuse Jesus in response to the miracle. They accept that a miracle has been performed, but their problem is that he is doing it on the Sabbath, and they say "this guy's a sinner because he is performing healings on the Sabbath." Now note again, the Sabbath day is an echo of creation. So Sabbath is a reminder of the book of Genesis. So we keep going back to the book of Genesis. Not just Genesis 2 with Adam being made from the clay, but Genesis 1 where God makes the world in six days and then rests on the Sabbath. So they say "well this guy, far from being divine, is actually breaking the Sabbath" and so they say that "he's a sinner." And then finally, what it says here — this is very important — it says that "the Jews did not believe." That "Jesus's miracle was met with disbelief" and they even call the parents of the man and tried to get them to bear witness as to whether this was in fact their son or not.

Now I want to give a quick explanation here about the way John's Gospel uses the word "the Jews." So when you read that English you might think that means followers of the law of Moses who are descended from Abraham and who follow the religion of Judaism — like we say today. When we say the word Jews today, that's what we are referring to, practitioners of the Jewish religion. But in John’s Gospel that's not what this word means. The literal Greek word is Ioudaios, which translated literally its Judeans. And over the course of John's Gospel, he's constantly showing us this tension and conflict between the Judeans in the South and the Galileans in the North. So when John says "the Jews didn't believe," he can't be referring to just a religious category, because the man born blind was a Jew. His parents are Jews. The disciples are Jews. Jesus is a Jew. What he is talking about here is the way Jesus's actions are being received by the Southerners, by the people of Judea, especially the city of Jerusalem, who are going to reject Jesus and reject his Messiahship. So some people were confused, some people accuse, and some of the Judeans, in particular — the people of Jerusalem — meet Jesus's action here with disbelief, with rejection. They don't accept his miracle and they accuse him of breaking the Sabbath.

Now what happens after this, though, is once they call the man bom blind to them, we have this whole exchange between them and him over whether Jesus is in fact a sinner. And what the man bom blind says is this, "I don't know whether he is a sinner or not, all I know is I was blind but now I see." So he's using the fact of the miracle to testify to the fact that Jesus can't be a sinner because he gave me sight, and that God doesn't listen to the prayers of the sinner and yet God clearly listened to the prayers of this Jesus who healed. Now watch what happens once the man bom blind says, "if this man were not from God he could do nothing.” The Pharisees and the leaders there repeat the same mistake of the disciples. They say, "you were bom in utter sin. Would you teach us?" In other words, they too assume that because the man had illness and sickness in the form of his blindness, that he had done something wrong. That he had sinned or, as the disciples thought, his parents sinned. And when Jesus finds the blind man after that exchange, something very important happens. He asked him, "do you believe in the Son of Man?" And the blind man says, "well who is he Lord that I might believe in him?" And he says, "you have seen him with your new eyes and it is he who speaks to you.” So he says, "Lord I believe!" And he worshiped Him. So, notice what happens here in the story. When the blind man first meets Jesus, there is no indication he knows who He is at all. After he heals him, he calls him a prophet. Then, when he gets into an exchange with the Pharisees and the Judeans he calls Him a man sent from God. So it's like his faith is going up from a prophet to a man sent from God, and now when he encounters Jesus for the second time Jesus says, "do you believe"? He says, "Lord I believe!" And he worshiped Him.

So we see him coming to the fullness of faith in Jesus's identity as the Lord, as divine, as the One who made the heavens and the earth. And once the blind man gives Him that confession of faith, Jesus gives his final pronouncement, "For judgment I came to this world so that those who do not see (like the man bom blind) may see, and so that those who do see may become blind." So what's Jesus talking about here? He's teaching us the difference between true sight and true blindness. See, the Pharisees think that true blindness is physical blindness. But what Jesus is revealing here is that true blindness is the inability to see that He has come from God, and that He is in fact the Savior of the world. And natural blindness or physical blindness, as in this case, Jesus is saying isn't real blindness because in this case the blind man sees far more clearly who Jesus is. He's a prophet. He's a man sent from God. And He is in fact the Lord (kyrios), God himself, the divine son of God.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So drawing on that Jewish rabbinic language and imagery, Paul is speaking to the Ephesians, who used to be pagans but now they’ve become Christians—or to use Paul’s language, they have become saints. They’ve become members of the Body of Christ. And so Paul says to them, look:

...once you were in darkness…

(i.e. before you believed, before you were baptized)

...but now you are light in the Lord…

That’s Paul’s language. He always talks about being in Christ. That’s his favorite way for describing what it means, as we would call it, to be a Christian—is to be “in Christ.” So once you’ve been baptized, you become...you’ve been baptized into Christ, so he says:

...you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light…

In other words, live like you are members of Jesus’ Body. If Jesus is the light of the world, then live as if you are children of light. And he says:

…(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)...(Ephesians 5:9)

So what kind of lives should we be leading? How should we walk? In such a way that we bear the fruit of goodness and truth and justice. Notice what he says here:

...try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)

I love that statement. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Notice, Paul recognizes that for his Ephesian converts, that this is going to take some effort on their part. They’re going to have to try. They’re going to have to study. They’re going to have to be like the man in Psalm 1 who actually picks up the law of the Lord and studies it and reads it day and night.

So I just bring this up because people are so often looking for guidance. “How do I live a Christian life? What am I supposed to do? What kind of choices should I make?” Well, here’s a tip. How about you read the Bible? Start reading the Bible.

Now if you’re watching these videos, you’re probably already reading the Bible. But there are lots of people out there who don’t realize that in order to walk on the right path, we need to do what Psalm 1 says and what Paul says here—learn. We need to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. The Ephesians that Paul is speaking to here...they didn’t necessarily know what was good and what was bad. They had basic moral compass, but in paganism, there were some things that Roman society and pagan society accepted, like slavery and the abuse of children and the abuse of women and other things...idolatry, those kinds of things which were regarded as good or at least morally neutral, but which are in fact wrong. So to learn what is pleasing to the Lord implies that if you’re going to walk this path, you need to study...you need to learn just like the man in the psalm, the righteous man in the psalm.

And then the other thing you have to do is not just study what is good. You have to avoid what is evil. So Paul says to them:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)

So notice, just like the wicked man in the psalm, the chaff doesn’t bear any fruits. It’s just a husk. So too, those who engage in wickedness today, Paul is saying, their works are unfruitful and you should have no part in them. You need to turn away from them. In fact, he goes on to say:

...it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret…(Ephesians 5:12)

So here Paul seems to be referring in particular either to sexual immorality—which would be obviously performed in secret or in private—or also idolatry, that would be performed in temples and that kind of stuff, in hidden rites. But in either case, Paul says it’s shameful even to speak of what they do in secret, because:

...when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. (Ephesians 5:13)

Now, notice the bar Paul sets here. It’s pretty high, isn’t it? Not only should you as Christians not do what the pagans are doing...not only should you avoid the immorality they’re engaged in, you shouldn’t even talk about it. You shouldn’t even speak about it. It’s shameful to speak about the things that they do in secret. It’s a powerful and important point and hopefully a challenging one as well. In other words, what kind of language should Christians, who are supposed to be the light of the world, be utilizing? Well, Paul actually says...he tells us explicitly in Ephesians 5:3. If you back up just a few verses before the reading for today in Ephesians 5, listen to this...Paul says:

...Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.

In Greek, eucharistia. That’s Ephesians 5:3-4. That’s the New American Bible. It’s a little more explicit there, no pun intended, about the language being utilized. So notice what Paul says. In context, when he says you shouldn’t even talk about the things they do in secret, you can just back up a few verses and see what he’s referring to. He’s talking about sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity... suggestive, filthy, silly talk. None of that stuff—which would have a place in their life as pagans—has any place in their life as Christians.

For full access subscribe here >

 



Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

As you can probably tell there's a lot going on in this particular text here. So we want to break it down, ask some key questions and highlight some key themes. So let's just walk through one by one what those are. Number one, the first key theme here is the relationship between sin and suffering, between sin and the blindness of this particular man. You'll notice that when the disciples see this man who was blind from birth, they assume that his blindness is either a result of his own personal sin or of the sin of his parents. So they say "who sinned, this man or his parents?” And Jesus says "neither, neither this man nor his parents, but his blindness in this case is so that the work of God might be manifest in him." So God has a higher purpose in allowing this man to be blind, but it is not the result of his own personal sin. Keep that in mind because we are going to come back to that. It is going to be a very, very important point.

The second aspect of the story that is worth highlighting is the way that Jesus performs the miracle. Notice that there are three key elements to the miracle here. Number one, Jesus performs the miracle in the context of declaring "I am the light of the world." In other words, in the face of this man's blindness, he makes a statement about his own identity as the light of the world. Number two, Jesus doesn't just speak a word like he does in other miracles — like the centurion's servant, "only say the word and my servant shall be healed. In this case, Jesus goes further and he spits on the ground and makes clay out of the dust and the spit, and then uses the the clay to anoint the man's eyes and heal him. Now this is really a rather shocking action on Jesus' part. I mean think about just that act of him spitting on the ground. How much spit would he have to to use in order to make clay out of the dust? So clearly this is a deliberate act on Jesus' part. He's using his own spit and the dust for some reason. What's the deeper reason? Didn't Mary teach Jesus any manners here? Not to spit? You know it might seem repugnant at first, but there is something significant going on. And then third, Jesus doesn't just spit and make clay, he also commands the man to wash with water. To wash in the water of the pool of Siloam that we see elsewhere in the Gospel of John. Okay, so why? What is the reason for these three steps of the miracle?

Well you wont't be surprised to realize that it really lies in the Old Testament, it lies in the Jewish roots of Jesus's action here. Because in first century Judaism — this is really interesting — there was a tradition going all the way back — the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to this — that when God made Adam from the dust of the ground he used spittle. That he used spit. Because if you try to make something from dust, you can't do it. You can't mold a statue of dust. You have to have some liquid in order to hold the dirt together. So the Jews had this tradition that when God made Adam, he made him from spit and clay. He made him from his own spit, and the Dead Sea Scrolls actually have a line that said that Adam, or man, was made from "spat saliva, molded clay." So think about that for a second. If in Jewish tradition God makes Adam from spit and dust from the clay, what is Jesus doing here?

Jesus is acting like God acted in the Old Testament. In other words, he is performing an act of a new creation. Just as Adam was given his body from the clay, so Jesus now gives the man bom blind sight. He gives him, in a sense, new eyes from the clay and his own spittle. So this is like a divine action for Jesus to spit on the ground and make clay and give this man sight. That's the basic theme of what is going on here. So this it yet another aspect of John's Gospel where Jesus is revealing his divinity. He is not just the Messiah. He is not just the king of Israel. He is the divine son of God. He's I am. He's the God who made the universe and who is now going to remake the universe and redeem it and make it new.

Now, you might think that everybody would see that, they would all love and it would be great. Unfortunately no, the response to Jesus's miracle is interesting here. Some people are confused. First of all they wader "is this the same man?" They doubt that he could actually be the same guy. Maybe he just looks like somebody else. Maybe you have had that happen to you where somebody sees someone who they think looks like you — a doppelganger it is called in German. So some people think " is this the same guy?" Other people just accuse Jesus in response to the miracle. They accept that a miracle has been performed, but their problem is that he is doing it on the Sabbath, and they say "this guy's a sinner because he is performing healings on the Sabbath." Now note again, the Sabbath day is an echo of creation. So Sabbath is a reminder of the book of Genesis. So we keep going back to the book of Genesis. Not just Genesis 2 with Adam being made from the clay, but Genesis 1 where God makes the world in six days and then rests on the Sabbath. So they say "well this guy, far from being divine, is actually breaking the Sabbath" and so they say that "he's a sinner." And then finally, what it says here — this is very important — it says that "the Jews did not believe." That "Jesus's miracle was met with disbelief" and they even call the parents of the man and tried to get them to bear witness as to whether this was in fact their son or not.

Now I want to give a quick explanation here about the way John's Gospel uses the word "the Jews." So when you read that English you might think that means followers of the law of Moses who are descended from Abraham and who follow the religion of Judaism — like we say today. When we say the word Jews today, that's what we are referring to, practitioners of the Jewish religion. But in John’s Gospel that's not what this word means. The literal Greek word is Ioudaios, which translated literally its Judeans. And over the course of John's Gospel, he's constantly showing us this tension and conflict between the Judeans in the South and the Galileans in the North. So when John says "the Jews didn't believe," he can't be referring to just a religious category, because the man born blind was a Jew. His parents are Jews. The disciples are Jews. Jesus is a Jew. What he is talking about here is the way Jesus's actions are being received by the Southerners, by the people of Judea, especially the city of Jerusalem, who are going to reject Jesus and reject his Messiahship. So some people were confused, some people accuse, and some of the Judeans, in particular — the people of Jerusalem — meet Jesus's action here with disbelief, with rejection. They don't accept his miracle and they accuse him of breaking the Sabbath.

Now what happens after this, though, is once they call the man bom blind to them, we have this whole exchange between them and him over whether Jesus is in fact a sinner. And what the man bom blind says is this, "I don't know whether he is a sinner or not, all I know is I was blind but now I see." So he's using the fact of the miracle to testify to the fact that Jesus can't be a sinner because he gave me sight, and that God doesn't listen to the prayers of the sinner and yet God clearly listened to the prayers of this Jesus who healed. Now watch what happens once the man bom blind says, "if this man were not from God he could do nothing.” The Pharisees and the leaders there repeat the same mistake of the disciples. They say, "you were bom in utter sin. Would you teach us?" In other words, they too assume that because the man had illness and sickness in the form of his blindness, that he had done something wrong. That he had sinned or, as the disciples thought, his parents sinned. And when Jesus finds the blind man after that exchange, something very important happens. He asked him, "do you believe in the Son of Man?" And the blind man says, "well who is he Lord that I might believe in him?" And he says, "you have seen him with your new eyes and it is he who speaks to you.” So he says, "Lord I believe!" And he worshiped Him. So, notice what happens here in the story. When the blind man first meets Jesus, there is no indication he knows who He is at all. After he heals him, he calls him a prophet. Then, when he gets into an exchange with the Pharisees and the Judeans he calls Him a man sent from God. So it's like his faith is going up from a prophet to a man sent from God, and now when he encounters Jesus for the second time Jesus says, "do you believe"? He says, "Lord I believe!" And he worshiped Him.

So we see him coming to the fullness of faith in Jesus's identity as the Lord, as divine, as the One who made the heavens and the earth. And once the blind man gives Him that confession of faith, Jesus gives his final pronouncement, "For judgment I came to this world so that those who do not see (like the man bom blind) may see, and so that those who do see may become blind." So what's Jesus talking about here? He's teaching us the difference between true sight and true blindness. See, the Pharisees think that true blindness is physical blindness. But what Jesus is revealing here is that true blindness is the inability to see that He has come from God, and that He is in fact the Savior of the world. And natural blindness or physical blindness, as in this case, Jesus is saying isn't real blindness because in this case the blind man sees far more clearly who Jesus is. He's a prophet. He's a man sent from God. And He is in fact the Lord (kyrios), God himself, the divine son of God.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So drawing on that Jewish rabbinic language and imagery, Paul is speaking to the Ephesians, who used to be pagans but now they’ve become Christians—or to use Paul’s language, they have become saints. They’ve become members of the Body of Christ. And so Paul says to them, look:

...once you were in darkness…

(i.e. before you believed, before you were baptized)

...but now you are light in the Lord…

That’s Paul’s language. He always talks about being in Christ. That’s his favorite way for describing what it means, as we would call it, to be a Christian—is to be “in Christ.” So once you’ve been baptized, you become...you’ve been baptized into Christ, so he says:

...you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light…

In other words, live like you are members of Jesus’ Body. If Jesus is the light of the world, then live as if you are children of light. And he says:

…(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)...(Ephesians 5:9)

So what kind of lives should we be leading? How should we walk? In such a way that we bear the fruit of goodness and truth and justice. Notice what he says here:

...try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)

I love that statement. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Notice, Paul recognizes that for his Ephesian converts, that this is going to take some effort on their part. They’re going to have to try. They’re going to have to study. They’re going to have to be like the man in Psalm 1 who actually picks up the law of the Lord and studies it and reads it day and night.

So I just bring this up because people are so often looking for guidance. “How do I live a Christian life? What am I supposed to do? What kind of choices should I make?” Well, here’s a tip. How about you read the Bible? Start reading the Bible.

Now if you’re watching these videos, you’re probably already reading the Bible. But there are lots of people out there who don’t realize that in order to walk on the right path, we need to do what Psalm 1 says and what Paul says here—learn. We need to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. The Ephesians that Paul is speaking to here...they didn’t necessarily know what was good and what was bad. They had basic moral compass, but in paganism, there were some things that Roman society and pagan society accepted, like slavery and the abuse of children and the abuse of women and other things...idolatry, those kinds of things which were regarded as good or at least morally neutral, but which are in fact wrong. So to learn what is pleasing to the Lord implies that if you’re going to walk this path, you need to study...you need to learn just like the man in the psalm, the righteous man in the psalm.

And then the other thing you have to do is not just study what is good. You have to avoid what is evil. So Paul says to them:

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)

So notice, just like the wicked man in the psalm, the chaff doesn’t bear any fruits. It’s just a husk. So too, those who engage in wickedness today, Paul is saying, their works are unfruitful and you should have no part in them. You need to turn away from them. In fact, he goes on to say:

...it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret…(Ephesians 5:12)

So here Paul seems to be referring in particular either to sexual immorality—which would be obviously performed in secret or in private—or also idolatry, that would be performed in temples and that kind of stuff, in hidden rites. But in either case, Paul says it’s shameful even to speak of what they do in secret, because:

...when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. (Ephesians 5:13)

Now, notice the bar Paul sets here. It’s pretty high, isn’t it? Not only should you as Christians not do what the pagans are doing...not only should you avoid the immorality they’re engaged in, you shouldn’t even talk about it. You shouldn’t even speak about it. It’s shameful to speak about the things that they do in secret. It’s a powerful and important point and hopefully a challenging one as well. In other words, what kind of language should Christians, who are supposed to be the light of the world, be utilizing? Well, Paul actually says...he tells us explicitly in Ephesians 5:3. If you back up just a few verses before the reading for today in Ephesians 5, listen to this...Paul says:

...Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.

In Greek, eucharistia. That’s Ephesians 5:3-4. That’s the New American Bible. It’s a little more explicit there, no pun intended, about the language being utilized. So notice what Paul says. In context, when he says you shouldn’t even talk about the things they do in secret, you can just back up a few verses and see what he’s referring to. He’s talking about sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity... suggestive, filthy, silly talk. None of that stuff—which would have a place in their life as pagans—has any place in their life as Christians.

For full access subscribe here >

 



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